Anyone who’s heard Los Lobos live knows how naturally they can lock into a groove for a melody—rendered by David Hildago’s soaring voice or Cesar Rosas’ grittier holler and growl—to anchor to. Let loose of the studio confines, songs like the opening “Dream In Blue” provide plenty of space for Hildago to stretch out on several tasty solos, in addition to an all too rare solo spot for Steve Berlin’s sax work. The relaxed arrangements benefit tracks like the riffy “Wicked Rain,” the hypnotic “Angels With Dirty Faces,” and the mantra-like “Peace.” The instrumental, “Arizona Skies,” rich with percussion and Hildago’s guitar work, gains more widescreen, cinematic grandeur in the live setting.
The sound quality and mix are rich and textured, if not as exquisite as the remastered Kiko. Low-end is substantial (even without a subwoofer), the midrange is full and solid, and the highs avoid the brittleness and distortion so prevalent in digital live recordings, especially at high volume.
What makes Kiko Live an invaluable companion to the studio release is the interview segments, which can be viewed individually or interspersed between songs. The anecdotes from the band, producer Froom, and engineer Blake offer insight into all phases of making Kiko. From Pérez explaining his lyrics’ inspirations, to reflections on how the success of “La Bamba” affected the band, to extolling the virtues of the SansAmp stomp box (without which Kiko would have been a very different album), the interviews add great context to the creation of that extraordinary recording.
There are not many rock and roll bands that compare to Los Lobos onstage and few albums as rich in possibility as Kiko for exploring its songs’ potential in a live setting. With the Kiko Live release, along with the 20th anniversary edition of the original album (reviewed here), Shout Factory has done an admirable job of recognizing one of the landmark albums of the '90s and, hopefully, introducing this music to an audience that missed it (or wasn’t around) the first time.
Kiko Live is available in standard DVD, Blu-ray, and, without the interview segments, CD format.